Newbie's Woodwork

Do you fancy woodworking and are you totally new to it? Where and how do you begin? Being the wife of a Master Carpenter, I have access to tools, space and the ultimate mentor to guide me through my projects. 

For those we are not in the same position, first, locate a local Maker’s Space/ DIY workshops etc. for access. They normally offer weekly or monthly passes where you are given a space and access to tools, over specific hours to work on your projects. In Singapore, check out Home Fix XPC at, to kick-start your cause. Once you find the right space, you will inevitably meet someone who is able to guide you through simple tasks or direct you to someone who can. Alternatively, bring your tablet along and learn a few tricks from Youtubers! Life is about continual learning and exploration.

Find a project that is close to your heart: In my case, I have a piece of 24-year old solid pine wood side table that is still in usable condition, but because it is aged and no longer to my taste, it has been sitting around in a corner of my home without any purpose. Instead of throwing it out (which will add more rubbish to landfills, and there is also no point giving an aged piece to others), I’ve decided to give it a new lease of life by updating it. One of my spare room could happily accommodate a nice side table! 


Next, plan what you are going to do: I have a good idea of the look and feel I want for this piece and I will not deviate too far from what it is right now. I’ll need to dismantle the entire piece, sand down the existing lacquer layer and give it a new coat of paint before reassembling it. That, to me is always the simplest way to start honing your woodworking skills. Begin with the basics and don’t give yourself a mountain of a task to embark on your first project!

Doing it: This is walking the talk. After dismantling my side table, I’ve learnt a good habit from my mentor. He would keep all screws and parts in a box, so there is little risk of losing things. Properly stored, I started sanding down each flat piece with our trusted Festool hand sanding machine using 120 sand paper. When sanding, put on ear plugs and a dust mask for protection. Make your life easier by sanding along the grains of the wood. As you are sanding, you will see a distinct change in colour as the surface wears off, use your hands to touch and feel if you have sanded down sufficiently. In my case, I had to ensure that the entire lacquer layer is removed, exposing a smooth solid pine wood surface that I can paint on. Sanding takes patience, don’t rush it and enjoy the process because there is a great sense of satisfaction when you are done.

Corners, gaps, profiles and sides require more detailed sanding, which means using a 400 sand paper to manually sand down these parts. Even more patience is needed here!

The fun begins when you decide on the type of paint and colour you like to use. I’ve always liked the shabby-chic, restored look and since I have been reading up on natural, environmentally friendly paints, I decided to go for MILK paint. These paints are made in the USA from real milk solids and dissolved limestone, and are USDA certified to be bio-based.

I bought a sample set from the US directly, just so that I can try them out on this risk free project. As with any new thing, you try till you get the right mixing consistency for the effect you are trying to achieve. Altogether, I made three layers of paint job with sanding in between. I wanted to have some raw wood lines showing through to reveal its age; I have kept the old wooden knobs as they are, for remembrance while adding a touch of grey to the round base legs. The entire side table was finished with a coat of beeswax that is easy to apply and polish. 

Satisfaction Guaranteed: Not that the piece has to be perfect. The fact that I have set myself a project and an end goal makes completing it fulfilling. I am looking forward to having this side table to grow in my space!

A shabby chic look in white wash milk paint.

A shabby chic look in white wash milk paint.